I was accused of driving under the influence of alcohol or other substances at a road block. What now?
A general overview of driving under the influence is previously discussed here. You did not violate any observable traffic violations. You went through a road block. Was it constitutional?
Road blocks and checkpoints
Aside from traffic violations, people are curious about road blocks. A recent justice court case brings to Mississippian’s attention the constitutionality of road blocks.
In the news
Recently, in Tupelo, MIssissippi, an attorney for the city arrived at a roadblock. The officers arrested him for DUI. Here is a news article with the facts and disposition. The Lee County Justice Court Judge dismissed the charge. Let me explain why.
An unconstitutional road block
The Justice Court Judge made a public statement, “There has to be something from higher above saying it’s OK,” linked supra. By this, he meant that the road block must have a specific purpose.
The criterion for a constitutional checkpoint, commonly called and hereinafter referred to as a “roadblock,” is as follows:
- First of all, a supervising authority must authorize the roadblock. One or two officers cannot randomly decide to set up a roadblock. The authority establishes the site and procedure of the roadblock. A common example of a road block is one set up to monitor traffic safety on a busy holiday to protect citizens from other citizen’s who may have had too much to drink. Another common example is a roadblock to spot a fugitive whose whereabouts are likely in the area.
- Furthermore, officers must stop all drivers; they cannot randomly stop one vehicle and let another pass by without a check.
- The road block must be clearly identifiable. Typically, this means that the officers are in uniform, and the vehicles are marked. If unmarked, the vehicles should be parked with blue lights on.
- Finally, the duration of the road block must be reasonable; set up for an amount of time that coincides with its purpose.
Applying the law
The State has an interest in protecting it’s citizens and roadways. However, citizens also have a Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures. Therefore, there is a balancing act between the two decided by the Courts. The factors listed above are a guideline for the courts to follow.
In this particular case, there is contention because many people believe the Justice’s disposition was influenced by local politics. Without further information, this humble lawyer thinks that the justice followed the law. Hopefully, the justice applies this analysis equally to all citizens.
If you have any questions, call us to see if we can be of any assistance to you or someone you know.
Richard Poole Noel, III